The Importance of Doing Your Own Work: Lessons from The Audacity to Be You
So, you have just enrolled your teenager in a wilderness therapy program. You eagerly await that first call, waiting to hear how they are doing, wondering how they are settling in. You get the initial update, and it sounds like they are still repeating many of the same behaviors from home. You get the next few weekly updates, and they are still being __________ (fill in the blank with the concerning behavior). You start to wonder when the change will begin to occur, and when the magic of the wilderness will impact your child. You grow impatient and question, “Why isn’t this working?”
Part of the challenge with this mindset is the perspective. This process is going to be a different one, different than what we sometimes think of when we take our children to therapy in an office. The magic of the wilderness for you is in doing your work, your therapeutic work. Change occurs as we shift our focus. It is in examining you and yourself and your journey as a person. It is in taking space from your child, so you can take steps to be a better person, so you can better understand your feelings and thoughts and what you can do moving forward.
Sounds simple right? Absolutely not. I struggle with parenting every day, parenting is tough. Too often as parents we get caught up with thinking we need to parent the right way, wondering what the appropriate boundaries are for our child, and trying to give the most helpful consequences. We get lost. We get caught up with black and white processes that are not always helpful to us in actually parenting our children.
In The Audacity to Be You, Dr. Reedy encourages us to better understand ourselves so we can be more present and available emotionally as we support our children in doing their work. As we do our own work, we feel less of a need to fix our children; and focus more on understanding them and what they are trying to tell us. When we are doing our best to take care of ourselves, our children are left to focus on themselves instead of doing things for us or perhaps trying to please us. As we become more stable and clearer about ourselves, we are more able to do what Dr. Reedy suggests here:
There is often no solution to these situations except to listen - in other words, hearing and sitting with someone’s painful story is the solution.
This is contrary to so many instincts and beliefs that many of us have held in our lives. We want to dive in and fix things, we want to teach or advise our teenagers about their behavior. We are the parents, and we should know better, right? This attitude or perception that we should have it all figured out is so hard to resist!
But what about boundaries? Shouldn’t that be a part of what I do as a parent? Yes, boundaries can be helpful, however, too often we focus on them as the solution, as opposed to understanding that they are part of the truth we tell about ourselves. Dr. Reedy invites us to consider, “Telling the truth is a simple way to understand boundaries.” So…part of the journey for us as parents is to find our truth, to understand our truth, and have that truth inform the way we speak to and engage our children and others we set boundaries with in our lives. As we speak our truth, we are setting boundaries with those around us. We named our wilderness therapy program Evoke because “we believe it is our job to evoke or draw out the truth that is present in every client, child, parent, or spouse and support them in giving it the voice it deserves.”
As you continue your personal therapeutic work, please do review and explore, The Audacity to Be You, as part of this journey. I have just scratched the surface of the teachings and suggestions from Dr. Reedy.
I will close with a story about trees from Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher and psychologist. He has an inspiring way of considering differences in others and challenging our tendency to judge them, by comparing people to trees in the forest.
Some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so, I practice turning people into trees.
As you explore yourself and do your work, it is our hope that you can begin to consider your child (and yourself) as a tree, appreciating yourself and others in new and meaningful ways.